Friday, September 04, 2020
Was Slavery America's First Culture War?
Politics today in America, and to a somewhat lesser extent elsewhere, has become a black hole that sucks away any hope of progress.
The device is commonly known as the 'culture war.' It's a repository where medical crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, environmental emergencies such as the climate change catastrophe, and every conceivable sort of social malaise, can be shrink-wrapped in political quagmire and consigned to languish unaddressed, unresolved, suffocating.
I wonder if the slavery issue between the southern slave states and the abolitionist north was the first example of culture war in America. The Republic wasn't always of one mind before that. For example New England wasn't at all keen on the American declaration of war on Britain in 1812 but that was a passing piffle.
Slavery, however, went to the cultural, economic, political, social, even religious disparities between North and South. It was intractable. Lincoln fully appreciated the worsening danger when he warned that 'a house divided against itself cannot stand.' As Lincoln predicted, civil war ensued when the Confederate States seceded from the Union and subsequently attacked Union forces within Fort Sumter.
Historians tell us that in the run-up to the attack on Fort Sumter the populations of both sides, north and south, were spoiling for a fight. For the south it was a war of liberation and independence. For the north it was a war to vanquish the rebels and preserve the Union.
The US today is said to be more deeply divided than at any time since the Civil War. The lines of division aren't nearly as clean cut. It's not one type of economy versus another. It isn't a neat territorial division. There is no Confederacy of secessionist states. Yet the country remains divided on what are becoming irreconcilable differences.
Could the re-election of Donald Trump be a latter day Fort Sumter event?